Smoking, extra weight in pregnancy tied to obesity throughout childhood

June 23, 2014, Reuters

By Shereen Lehman

Women who smoke during pregnancy and are overweight early in pregnancy are more likely to have children who become obese as toddlers and stay obese through their teenage years, according to a new study.

Obesity rates have more than doubled among U.S. children and quadrupled among U.S. adolescents in the past three decades, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One in every three young people is obese.

The authors of the new study looked at how children’s body mass index (BMI), a measure of weight in relation to height, changed over time, from ages 1 to 18. They found being consistently obese was associated with certain exposures in the womb, and with having asthma and other problems in adolescence.

Past studies looking at risk factors for obesity and the consequences of being obese have focused on weight at one point in time, Dr. Wilfried Karmaus said. Continue reading

Young male smokers may raise obesity risk in their future sons

April 2, 2014, Reuters

By Kate Keland

Men who start smoking before the age of 11 risk having sons who are overweight, British researchers have found, adding to evidence that lifestyle factors even in childhood can affect the health of future offspring.

The scientists said the findings, part of ongoing work in a larger “Children of the ’90s” study, could indicate that exposure to tobacco smoke before the start of puberty in men may lead to metabolic changes in the next generation.

“This discovery of transgenerational effects has big implications for research into the current rise in obesity and the evaluation of preventative measures,” said Marcus Pembrey, a professor of genetics at University College London, who led the study and presented its findings at a briefing on April 2. Continue reading

Gaining excess or too little weight during pregnancy tied to child obesity risk

April 14, 2014, Science World Report

According to researchers at Kaiser Permanente, gaining either excess weight or too little weight during pregnancy appears to elevate the risk of having an obese or overweight child. This study examined recommendations of the Institute of Medicine regarding pregnancy weight gain in relation to childhood obesity.

“Gaining either too little or too much weight in pregnancy may permanently affect mechanisms that manage energy balance and metabolism in the offspring, such as appetite control and energy expenditure,” study’s lead author Sneha Sridhar, MPH, Kaiser Permanente Division of Research, said in a statement. “This could potentially have long-term effects on the child’s subsequent growth and weight.”

For this study, the researchers looked at the health records of over 4,145 racially diverse women who completed the health survey taken from 2007-2009 and had a baby.  Apart from this, the researchers even looked at the medical records of children of ages 2 to 5 years. Continue reading

Overweight teens don’t share in life-expectancy gains

March 28, 2014, HealthDay

By Robert Preidt

Gains in life expectancy don’t extend to adults who were overweight or obese as teens, according to a new study.

The average lifespan in the United States has increased by more than a decade since 1950, to nearly 79 years for someone born in 2011, the researchers said. But rising obesity rates may stall that progress, they said.

“In studying the rate of death among adults younger than age 50, we found that there was no improvement among men who were overweight or obese as teenagers,” said Dr. Amir Tirosh of the division of endocrinology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

“The mortality rate among overweight and obese teenagers in the years 2000 to 2010 was as high as the rate observed in the 1960s and 1970s,” he said. Continue reading

NCCOR Member Meeting panel offers insights

The most recent National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research (NCCOR) Member Meeting, held on April 3, featured a lunchtime panel to discuss possible factors contributing to recently reported childhood obesity declines and related topics.

The event sparked an engaging discussion among members as the panel offered thoughts on what areas the Collaborative might focus on over the next five years. The meeting was the first since NCCOR celebrated its 5th birthday in February.

The panelists were:

  • Hank Cardello, Senior Fellow and Director, Obesity Solutions Initiative, The Hudson Institute
  • Jessica Donze Black, Director, Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods, The Pew Charitable Trusts
  • Tracy Fox, President, Food, Nutrition & Policy Consultants, LLC

Moderator Elaine Arkin of NCCOR and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation moderated the discussion, which included questions from NCCOR members.

All three panelists agreed that the recent declines indicate complementary shifts are occurring—that changes in food systems are being complemented by environmental and cultural shifts. Actions taken by the policy, industry, personal, and environmental sectors are beginning to have an impact. “Personal responsibility is being complemented by corporate responsibility and government responsibility,” said Fox.

The group also remarked that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been important in clarifying the link between obesity and increased health care costs.

The new statistics on declines in childhood obesity look good overall and are the beginning of what researchers would have hoped to see, given the increase in efforts for children ages 2-5 in recent years, they said. A panelist acknowledged changes in the composition of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) food packages as a potential contributing factor, for example. Even so, the panel noted the numbers mask distinct differences across subpopulations.

The panel reminded NCCOR that food marketing is still an enormous challenge. The food industry has specifically targeted certain groups, including children and minority groups. Also, marketing techniques have evolved significantly and now go far beyond traditional television marketing to encompass social media and other digital platforms such as games on mobile devices. To continue making headway, marketing unhealthy foods and beverages to children must be addressed.

In thinking about NCCOR’s next five years, the panel closed by listing several activities NCCOR may consider and adopt.

  • Find ways to replicate successes for populations and groups not currently experiencing declines.
  • Replicate successful natural experiments underway and figure out dynamic ways to communicate results.
  • Demonstrate and communicate what’s working using language that can be accessed by diverse groups, and frame results in ways that make groups act.
  • Communicate return-on-investment factors and “build the business case. It’s essential,” said Cardello, to educate businesses on how obesity declines benefit them.
  • “Let’s protect the really good policies we have in place right now,” said Donze Black, explaining that personal stories often impact legislative decisions. Thus, clear research findings accompanied by individual accounts can be very effective.

Study: Obesity’s link to type 2 diabetes not so clear-cut

Feb. 12, 2014, HealthDay

Although it’s a common belief that a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes often follows a large weight gain, a new study challenges that notion.

Researchers found that the majority of people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes didn’t get the disease until they’d been overweight or obese for a number of years.

What’s more, participants who maintained stable levels of overweight and eventually developed type 2 diabetes didn’t have a significant rise in their level of insulin resistance — a traditional risk factor — before getting the disease.

“In general, the majority of individuals developing type 2 diabetes were rather weight stable during follow-up with a slightly higher average BMI [body mass index] than the diabetes-free population,” wrote study author Dorte Vistisen, at the Steno Diabetes Center in Denmark, and colleagues. Continue reading

New APHA infographic examines how public health has helped curb obesity

The American Public Health Association (APHA) recently released an infographic describing the burden and cost of obesity, how public health helps curb obesity, and the importance of public health funding.

Share this infographic widely and use it as an example when talking to decision makers about the importance of public health funding. Continue reading

Income, not ‘food deserts,’ more to blame for U.S. obesity

Sept. 20, 2013, Gallup.com

By Kyley McGeeney and Elizabeth Mendes

In the United States, obesity in “food deserts” is above average. However, it is not solely — or even primarily — access to grocery stores that appears to be the issue — higher obesity rates are more likely to be linked to lower incomes. In other words, a lack of access to food in and of itself doesn’t matter when it comes to obesity. It only matters if Americans are also low-income. Further, income always matters, regardless of whether an individual has access to grocery stores or not.

“Food deserts” are typically defined as either an area that has limited access to grocery stores or as an area that is low income and lacks access to grocery stores. Regardless of which definition is used, what is clear is that the lack of access to grocery stores alone is not related to higher obesity rates — rather, it is more a lack of income. Continue reading

More education, not income, fights obesity

Sept. 13, 2013, Medical Xpress

By Stephanie Stephens

Educational status may protect women living in socioeconomically disadvantaged areas against obesity, finds a new study in the American Journal of Health Promotion.

The study adds to previous studies showing an inverse association between body mass index (BMI) and socioeconomic status (SES). Generally, researchers have discovered that women in areas with fewer economic resources have higher BMIs than women in more affluent communities.

Income and education are frequently used as markers for studying health inequalities, although they are “conceptually distinct,” said the new report’s authors. “It is possible that education is a marker of an individual’s access to health information, capacity to assimilate health-related messages, and ability to retain knowledge-related assets, such as nutrition knowledge.” Continue reading

Teens who beat obesity at risk for eating disorders

Sept. 9, 2013, USA Today

By Michelle Healy

Teens who were once overweight or obese are at a significant risk of developing an eating disorder as they lose weight, but identification and treatment of the condition is often delayed because of their weight history, researchers say.

“For some reason we are just not thinking that these kids are at risk. We say, ‘Oh boy, you need to lose weight, and that’s hard for you because you’re obese,’ “ says Leslie Sim, clinical director of the eating disorders program at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota and lead author of a case study report in October’s Pediatrics, published online today.

In the report, Sim and colleagues review two cases in which teens with a history of obesity developed severe, restrictive eating patterns in the process of losing weight. But indications of an eating disorder went unidentified and untreated by medical providers for as long as two years despite regular check-ups. Continue reading